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Doubling their teamwork is key

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Shelby's Doug Martin, Jeron Russell ready for challenge

By Josh Cook

It’s rare for opponents or emotions to get the better of Doug Martin and Jeron Russell.

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That’s one of the major reasons why Martin, a junior for Shelby County junior, and Russell, a freshman, will play doubles in the KHSAA Tennis Tournament, which begins Thursday at the University of Kentucky’s Boone/Downing Tennis Complex.

Martin and Russell are about as even-keeled as they come on the tennis court.

“They don’t get too emotional, and they keep their heads,” Rockets Coach Aaron Bissmeyer said. “Tennis is a mental game, similar to golf, so having a roller coaster of emotions [on the court] isn’t very successful.

“They don’t have the years of experience, or talent, some other teams have, but they do well because they work together and play within themselves and don’t try to do too much. They know each other’s games, and they complement each other.”

This doubles duo, the first from Shelby County in recent memory to reach the state tournament, is scheduled to play Bowling Green’s tandem of senior Noah Flener and sophomore Brandon Lee at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in the Round of 64 in Lexington.

If Martin and Russell win that match they’ll face Lone Oak’s Cody Dalton and Grant Hammons in the Round of 32 at approximately 2:15 p.m. Thursday. Dalton and Hammons, who are one of eight teams seeded ninth, were the only tandem to win a match before the tournament began, thanks to the withdrawal of a duo from Magoffin County.

Martin and Russell began playing doubles together late last season. They finished one victory shy of reaching the state tourney then, falling to Bullitt East’s Reese Milburn and Hunter Norris in the region quarterfinals, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

Playing together this season, the duo has lost only four matches. Two of those were to South Oldham sophomore Aaron Amburgey and eighth-grader Cameron Mount, one was during the regular season (6-1, 6-3) and the other came in the region semifinals (6-1, 6-1) on the Dragon duo's march to the regional title.

Martin and Russell’s other defeats this season were to Milburn and Norris (6-4, 6-0) and a 3-set thriller to a team from Louisville Collegiate.

“Gosh, don’t talk about it,” Martin said to Bissmeyer on Monday.

That was a rare off-day for the duo, though.

“Probably our chemistry [is our biggest asset],” Russell said. “We’ve been playing together for two years, and we’ve known each other for quite a while because he and my brother [Ethan] are friends….We work well together, and we keep each other’s spirits up.”

Added Martin: “I’ve got a good forehand; he’s got a good backhand. Other than that, we just don’t fight.”

But Martin and Russell, both of whom are students with 4.0 grade-point averages, want to put up a fight this week.

“Our first goal was to make it there,” Russell said. “Now we just want to go out there, play our best and try to get through a round or two.”